Flown the Nest

Hanna Greally spent the best part of the 1940s and 1950s incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital in the Irish Midlands. In her first book Birds Nest Soup she recounted with vivid detail the terrible suffering she endured there. Hanna's story continues with account of her life in Coolamber Manor Rehabilitation Centre in Co. Longford, the place from where she hoped to gain freedom 'prodigously and for ever' and to 'soon be a citizen, vote, earn money, even do crosswords and perhaps become well off'. If Hanna became part of the civil dead in St. Loman's we can now, for the first time, read alongside her restoration to citizenship and to personal autonomy. After St Loman's Hanna stands at the door to another institution - this one without bars or punishment cells - to become the first person to cross the threshold of the new state run rehabilitation center. Here too, the story of cookery classes, renewed-first freedoms, the giddiness of young women together (and Hanna like an indulgent mother amongst them) is best told in Hanna's own words. Coolamber Manor ends with Hanna taking her first paid job in Ireland - she doesn't state so in the book but it was in Galway. Within some time, she moved again and eventually made her way to England where she worked as many single Irish women did, in service as cook or housekeeper. Several years and several different jobs later, she finally came to rest in a stable home of sorts, as a housekeeper for a retired doctor.